Humming as a means of communicating during mealtime situations: A single case study involving a woman with severe dementia and her caregiver

Lena Marmstål Hammar, Christine Williams, Anna Swall, Gabriella Engström


Objective: ‘Music Therapeutic Caregiving’, when caregivers sing for or together with persons with dementia during morning care situations, has been shown to increase verbal and nonverbal communication between persons with dementia and their caregivers, as well as enhance positive and decrease negative emotions in persons with dementia. No studies about singing during mealtimes have been conducted, and this pilot project was designed to elucidate this. However, since previous studies have shown that there is a risk that persons with dementia will start to sing along with the caregiver, the caregiver in this study hummed such that the person with dementia did not sing instead of eat. The aim of this pilot project was threefold: to describe expressed emotions in a woman with severe dementia, and describe communication between her and her caregivers without and with the caregiver humming. The aim was also to measure food and liquid intake without and with humming.

Method: The study was constructed as a Single Case ABA design in which the ordinary mealtime constituted a baseline which comprised a woman with severe dementia being fed by her caregivers in the usual way. The intervention included the same woman being fed by the same caregiver who hummed while feeding her. Data comprised video observations that were collected once per week over 5 consecutive weeks. The Verbal and Nonverbal Interaction Scale and Observed Emotion Rating Scale were used to analyze the recorded interactions.

Results: A slightly positive influence of communication was shown for the woman with dementia, as well as for the caregiver. Further, the women with dementia showed a slight increase in expressions of positive emotions, and she ate more during the intervention.

Conclusion: Based on this pilot study no general conclusions can be drawn. It can be concluded, however, that humming while feeding persons with dementia might slightly enhance communication, and positive expressed emotions in persons with dementia. To confirm this, more studies on group levels are needed. Because previous studies have found that caregiver singing during caring situations influences persons with dementia positively it might be desirable to test the same during mealtime.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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